HS2 road to slice through meadow

Wildlife trust fears dam­age to SSSI may be ‘ir­recov­er­able’

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Kather­ine Cle­men­tine kather­ine.cle­men­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

WILDLIFE ex­perts are dis­mayed at plans to put a road through a site of spe­cial sci­en­tific in­ter­est (SSSI) in Hilling­don.

The high speed rail project HS2 will re­quire an ac­cess road through Frays Farm Mead­ows, which is a valu­able na­ture re­serve and one of only 37 SSSIs in the whole of the United King­dom.

The road would slice the north­ern bound­ary of the site, de­stroy­ing habi­tat and threat­en­ing the en­tire sedge-beds for which the mead­ows are des­ig­nated, says Lon­don Wildlife Trust.

Mathew Frith, di­rec­tor of con­ser­va­tion at the trust said: “Politi­cians may trum­pet the ques­tion­able eco­nomic value of HS2, but na­ture also has a huge value – pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits that can­not eas­ily be mea­sured or un­der­stood by the bean coun­ters and their profit and loss sheets.

“Frays Farm Mead­ows is only one small slice of na­ture that HS2 is threat­en­ing to de­stroy; but this road would re­verse all the work Lon­don Wildlife Trust has un­der­taken to re­store the na­ture re­serve over the past decade, and may dam­age parts of it ir­recov­er­ably.

“We will fight to save it and we would urge our sup­port­ers to pe­ti­tion against HS2 both lo­cally and in its en­tirety.”

The road would be needed for up to six years, start­ing from around 2017.

It would take a to­tal of nine years be­fore the road could be re­moved and for the full ex­tent of dam­age to be mea­sured in 2026.

The na­ture re­serve sup­ports one of the largest re­main­ing sedge fens in Lon­don, a rare wet graz­ing meadow that is home to species such as the wa­ter vole, snipe and slow-worm.

Large lev­els of ni­tro­gen diox­ide will be pro­duced from the haulage road, and it is feared other pol­lu­tants will be soaked up by the wet, spon­ge­like con­di­tions of the mead­ows, po­ten­tially harm­ing the sedge-beds en­tirely and ir­recov­er­ably. Aside from pol­lu­tion, de­struc­tion of habi­tat and se­vere dis­tur­bance to wildlife, the ac­cess road will also cause se­ri­ous dis­rup­tion to Lon­don Wildlife Trust’s care of this site.

The Trust say their abil­ity to ac­cess the re­serve will be ‘sig­nif­i­cantly con­strained’.

The mead­ows are grazed by cat­tle and with­out such graz­ing the habi­tats will rapidly be­come over­grown and de­te­ri­o­rate, threat­en­ing the many species that de­pend on this scarce and valu­able en­vi­ron­ment.

Frays Farm Mead­ows is free to visit and open at all times.

MIT­I­GA­TION mea­sures sug­gested by STOP HS2 cam­paign­ers and Hilling­don Coun­cil have been re­jected by HS2 Ltd as ‘too ex­pen­sive’.

Pe­ti­tion­ers who were ‘dev­as­tated’ by HS2 Ltd’s re­jec­tion of a tun­nel to ‘bury’ the high speed rail link un­der the Colne Val­ley, asked for the com­pany to work with TfL and the coun­cil to re­lo­cate the rail­head to the West Ruis­lip Lon­don Un­der­ground (LUL) de­pot and for so­lu­tions to con­ges­tion and road ac­cess, such as the haul road to Harvil Road.

But HS2 re­jected the LUL de­pot, on the grounds that it would ‘add £95m to the cost of the project and de­lay it by up to two years’.

In­stead they of­fered to con­struct a haul road and sig­nalise Swake­leys round­about to re­duce the max­i­mum num­ber of HGVs from 1,460 per day to 500 per day.

The haul road would con­nect at its south­ern end with the east­bound slip road ad­ja­cent to the A40 Western Av­enue, pass through Uxbridge Golf Course and cross Harvil Road to en­ter the HS2 work­site.

But in a let­ter to the chair­man of the Com­mons se­lect com­mit­tee on HS2, Robert Syms, Hilling­don Coun­cil leader Ray Pud­di­foot said: “It is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that HS2 Ltd has not worked in a co-op­er­a­tive way with Hilling­don or TfL in the way that we un­der­stood was re­quired by the se­lect com­mit­tee.

“TfL’s pro­pos­als ap­pear to have been dis­missed far too read­ily by HS2 Ltd, with­out any proper ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis.

“While the haul road is painted in a favourable light in HS2’s doc­u­ment, the fact re­mains that TfL and Hilling­don re­main to be con­vinced that it will solve the very real net­work prob­lems due to the re­liance on HGV move­ments.”

Lot­tie Jones, pe­ti­tioner and cam­paigner for Hilling­don Against HS2, said she feels ‘de­flated’ by the lat­est dis­ap­point­ments.

She said: “It was very clear, very quickly af­ter we had fin­ished pe­ti­tion­ing, that it was a fore­gone con­clu­sion that they weren’t go­ing to even en­ter­tain the idea of a tun­nel rather than a viaduct. Hilling­don Coun­cil and pe­ti­tion­ers have col­lec­tively put in over six months of re­ally hard work, col­lat­ing in­for­ma­tion with all the de­tail and we spent hours in prepa­ra­tion.

“We felt, oddly enough at the time, that the com­mit­tee were be­ing sym­pa­thetic. But now we just think we’ve been duped.”

Mrs Jones is frus­trated that the money be­ing spent on mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors, all added up, could have in­stead been spent on a tun­nel.

She said: “The haul road is a so­lu­tion, but it doesn’t solve all of the prob­lem, it just moves the traf­fic around. On pa­per, HS2 Ltd makes every­thing sound so much bet­ter, but it’ll just to­tally stack up the A40, which not only af­fects lo­cal traf­fic but also one of the main routes in and out of Lon­don.”

The Stop HS2 cam­paign­ers are now call­ing on Boris John­son and Nick Hurd to op­pose HS2 at the third read­ing and will be con­tact­ing each Lon­don may­oral can­di­date in the run-up to May’s elec­tion.

Mr Hurd, MP for Ruis­lip, North­wood, Pin­ner, said the tun­nel ex­ten­sion would have been the best so­lu­tion but added: “It is very clear that the com­mit­tee un­der­stood the prob­lems and have pushed HS2 into mak­ing some sig­nif­i­cant changes for the bet­ter.”

■ HABI­TAT: Wildlife at Frays Farm

Mead­ows is un­der threat

n SCRU­TINY: Mem­bers of the se­lect com­mit­tee vis­ited Hilling­don ear­lier this year

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